Let's talk about some interesting stuff
Hello, friends. It’s been a while since I’ve been writing regularly on this Substack: a couple of years, in fact, for a variety of better and worse reasons. It’s mostly that I’ve been busy. I published my first book, The Verge; I sold a second book, which I’m working on right now, entitled Lost Worlds: The Rise and Fall of Human Societies from the Ice Age to the Bronze Age, that I’ll be finishing in 2024 for Harper Collins; and I made 12 episodes of an interview show about Dad Culture, The Pursuit of Dadliness, which was an enormous amount of fun to put together. I’ve still been producing regular episodes of my main show, Tides of History. Tides is now in its fifth season, covering the Iron Age across Eurasia, everything from the rise of the Assyrian Empire and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the origins of Rome and the dawn of history in China. All of that has left me without a lot of time for this Substack.
That’s been alright, though, because I haven’t felt like I’ve had all that much to say, and particularly not about ongoing events. Sure, I could fire off some Takes and make half-assed historical comparisons between the past and present. If I were willing to talk about topics with which I’m not familiar, but could pretend to be, then the opportunities would be effectively endless. Those Takes might even have gotten some attention and readership. But I don’t think there’s a lot of value in that for either you, the readers, or for myself, personally or professionally. I’m not a Takesman (shout-out to Charles Barkley and Stephen A. Smith, the best to ever do it), I’m not a blogger, and I’m not a cable-news pundit. Other people can do that stuff if they want to; it’s not my business to judge their professional choices or the incentives that make them viable. I’m a historian, I guess, and an observer of what’s happening in the world, and if I’m going sit down to write a thing then it’s going to be worth my and your time.
So, with my explanation-cum-self-righteous screed out of the way, here’s what I’m planning on doing with this Substack over the next weeks and months.
Occasional lengthy essays. The first will be on how to think about the long-term relationship between people and their environments - how climate changes over time, how people adapt to changing conditions, how we ourselves change our environments, and what we can learn from this constant of human existence. I also went through a big phase of reading about insurgencies throughout history last year, and I might share some of what I learned about that in another essay.
Historical People. I’ll pick a person, from anywhere or anyplace in the past couple of hundred thousand years, and try to locate them in their place and time on the basis of the available evidence: textual, archaeological, whatever, let’s just try to get to know a person who lived a long time ago. They were more like us than we can imagine.
Coverage of interesting stuff happening in history, archaeology, and palaeoanthropology. This is still a really exciting time to be interested in these topics, especially archaeology, because a) there’s so much new work being done, and b) the techniques and methods are so much different, and more advanced, than simply digging up artifacts. You’ve probably heard of ancient DNA, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Books and other media that are worth your time. I read a lot, some for work and some for fun, and if you fine folks are interested then I’ll be happy to share that with you.
Discussion threads. Exactly what they sound like. Hit me up and ask some questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.
If there’s enough interest in these topics, then I’ll do more of them, adding a tier for subscribers. Depending on what happens with Tides of History in the coming year, maybe this place will be the home for a new podcast as well.
So, let me know what you think. I’m stoked to be writing more, and can’t wait to share some of what I’ve learned during my time away. We’ll chat more soon.